Published January 26, 2015
Tags: birding, birds, Brooklyn, Green-Wood
Yesterday in Green-Wood I was enjoying the sun in a section of the cemetery I’d never been in before when a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) flew overhead. Whoa! The bird was a mature adult; it takes about four years for those white feathers to come in completely on the head and tail. The look is as distinctive as a flag. The bird was flying low and I wondered if it would land nearby. It did.It was perched above the Crescent Water in this pine. From here it flew somewhere thattaway. When I eventually got up over the hill, there it was again. These birds are big (31″ length, 80″ wingspan), so they really stick out when up in a bare tree. I was just about to get a focus on the bird for some more pictures when it stretched out its wings. There was a crack, the branch the bird was sitting on broke and plummeted down with a crash as the bird flew away. They can weigh up to a dozen pounds, which is an awful lot for a bird.I ran into two birders at Green-Wood’s Gothic pile entrance at 5th Ave. who saw the bird leaving the cemetery grounds in a northwesterly direction. This was the first time I’ve seen an adult specimen of the species, whose binomial translates as this post’s title (“bald” is
pretty dumb see comment below), actually standing in Brooklyn.
I just read the other day that there about 150 pairs in NJ and close to 200 in NY. There is a breeding pair on Staten Island. Thoreau, who used the old “white-headed” name for these birds, said about an 1854 encounter with one: “We who live this plodding life here below never know how many eagles fly over us. They are concealed in the empyrean.” But by the 1970s, there was almost nothing to conceal: NY was down to a single pair, and they were unsuccessful at breeding. Bringing them back from the brink (often from upper Midwestern stock, btw) been a great success story, one we must build on.
Published January 22, 2015
Tags: Brooklyn, mammals
Magic-hour light on road-kill, scavenged, and partially petrified Raccoon (Procyon lotor).Oh, and good morning!
I don’t remember the last time I saw a Canvasback (Aythya valisineria). Whenever it was, the bird was in the water. This bright male surprised me on the rocks of Pier 4 at Brooklyn Bridge Park this afternoon. From a distance, with a few Gadwall around him in the water and on the rocks, I didn’t think the white blob was alive. There’s lots of weird stuff floating in the harbor, after all, and catching on the rocks with the waves and the tide. Then I tried to remember which ducks were so white. But once he pulled his head from under his wing… this dark sloping forehead and long tapering bill are distinctive. And so, obviously, is that white “canvas” back (and, out of the water, belly).And those eyes! Beautiful and mesmerizing.
This is one of our largest diving ducks. They are usually found in rafts with other Aythya genus ducks like the Scaups. When I posted this bird on the NY state bird list, a correspondent in Ithaca told me there were 50 of them up there amid thousands of Redheads, another duck not so common in NYC waters. I would like to see that.
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Published January 18, 2015
Tags: Brooklyn, Gowanus
Some fifty Mallards were hanging out on the Superfund canal last weekend. Prospect Park’s Lake was mostly frozen, but this tidal, briny, self-heating (?) water remained open to waterfowl.
It was a rather active morning: I heard American Crows in the distance and shrieking Blue Jays closer, which made me wonder if there was a raptor about. The Red-tailed Hawk I posted about Wednesday floated by, so that may have explained that (there was a Red-tailed on the very top of St. Agnes yesterday afternoon, too). While I was on the Union St. Bridge, which is where the picture above was taken, the sky filled with Ring-billed Gulls, who roost on the flat roofs in the area. A single Crow flew amongst them and then proceeded to make three swooping dives over the trees on the left middle ground. Usually Crows work in family units, but this one had no back-up and was silent. I’m not sure what it was harassing; a smaller bird did move in the trees on the third pass, but I was too far way to make it out. It may have been a small falcon or hawk. Can’t think what else a Crow would bother with, besides owls, which are unlikely here, and feral cats. The canal’s foaming mire, corralled by the boom, looks grim-ugly; the ducks were floating through it.
Published January 16, 2015
Published January 15, 2015
Tags: birding, birds, Brooklyn
A wing and nothing but a wing.Found at Floyd Bennett Field in the last week of December. About 6″ long.
Two Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) drifted overhead of me as I crossed the Terrace Bridge on Saturday, coming from somewhere in the direction of the parking lot now befouling the top of Breeze Hill. One landed, the other floated off towards Lookout Hill. This photographed bird shook its tail feathers quite a bit, which made me think it was the female, post-coitally making some adjustments. As I bisected the Nethermead, I noticed a tell-tale light spot up in a tree. This developed into a Merlin (Falco columbarius). Raptors usually have whiter bellies than backs, and on bare winter branches these stick out like beacons to the hawk-eyed. This was the second weekend in a row I’ve spotted a Merlin in Prospect. This bird dropped from its perch in a suddenly plunge and shot towards Quaker Hill with incredible speed, such a difference from the slow flapping and circling flight of the Red-tails.On Sunday, as I was nearing the Union St. bridge over the Gowanus Canal, I saw this Red-tail fly by. It landed on the Gothick pile of St. Agnes, where it was still perched about an hour later as I made my way back through the Valley of the Shadow of the Gowanus.I’ve said it before: the “red” of the adult Red-tailed’s red tail is really more of a russet or brick color.